Cole Hamels was his usually untouchable self while Elvis Andrus and Carlos Gomez keyed scoring rallies as the Rangers from Arlington built a 6-0 cushion through seven innings. But Hamels left and the bats came alive in the eighth to score four runs as Houston trailed, 6-4. Alas, with two on and two outs in the ninth, Jose Altuve took a called third strike on a 50-mph changeup that looked questionable which ended the game and cemented Houston's fourth straight defeat and eighth of their last ten.
Rangers continue their spell
(c) Associated Press
Charlie Morton was tagged for four runs in the third, including RBI singles from Andrus, Gomez and Nomar Mazara. Andrus and Adrian Beltre swatted doubles in the fifth to tack on another run.
Reymin Guduan gave up a run in the seventh before James Hoyt calmed the storm and Joe Musgrove had a dominant eighth.
Just as it looked like the Astros would whimper through another Ranger loss, Jose Leclerc replaced Hamels and immediately walked Derek Fisher to open the eighth. George Springer then unloaded a home run to right center. It was his first home run since his return from the disabled list.
After Yuli Gurriel's two-out walk, Alex Claudio took over for Leclerc. Marwin Gonzalez and Carlos Beltran mashed RBI doubles to shrink the lead to two then Brian McCann spanked a sinking quail to right that Mazara just snared before it hit the ground. Inning over.
After Claudio struck out the first two batters in the ninth, Springer and Alex Bregman reached base on hits bringing up Altuve. Jose fell behind 0-2 then worked the count full when Cluadio threw a Doug Jones Special - a dying fish traveling under the speed limit which dropped across the plate for the final strike. Altuve was not convinced and appeared to be saying so to the home plate umpire as he walked back to the dugout.
The free-falling Astros continue their winless road trip Saturday at Global Warming Park when Mike Fiers (7-6) tries to right the ship against Tyson Ross (2-2) in a battle of righthanders. The first pitch will be at 7:05 PM.
- Bob Hulsey